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Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has died, the country's top civilian security official told The Associated Press on Wednesday. It was the government's first categorical confirmation of the death of the feared militant, whose passing is likely to weaken, but not vanquish, the al-Qaida-linked insurgent network he led.
The Taliban have repeatedly denied his death, but backed off an initial promise to prove the 28-year-old was still alive.
In a response to an AP query, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, wrote, "Yes, he is dead," while a senior intelligence official concurred separately. Neither gave details as to when or how the militant died.
The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
He appeared in a video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees in eastern Afghanistan. After that Dec. 30 attack, the U.S. temporarily ramped up its missile campaign in Pakistan's tribal areas.